Thank you to the many constituents who have contacted me about the Conservative Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which was published last week and has been debated in Parliament yesterday and today.
This was meant to be a Bill about improved sentencing and the courts, but the Home Secretary hijacked it at the last moment and it is now predominantly a rushed, poorly thought-out mess of a Bill including unacceptable measures imposing disproportionate controls on freedom of expression and the democratic right to protest.
There are some measures in the Bill that I support, several of which have been campaigned for by Labour colleagues for some time, including proposals on dangerous driving, increased sentences for terrorists and other dangerous offenders, a police covenant, reform to criminal records and closing the loophole to criminalise sexual abuse by people in positions of trust (such as sports coaches and religious office holders).
As we have seen over the past few days, the tragic death of Sarah Everard has instigated a national demand for action to tackle violence against women.
I believe that this Bill should have put in place long overdue protections for women against unacceptable violence, including action against domestic homicides, rape and street harassment. And the misogynistic attitudes that underpin the abuse women face must be tackled urgently.
Instead of grasping that urgent and immediate need, the Government has brought forward a Bill that is seeking to divide the country. It is a mess, the measures in it could lead to harsher imprisonment penalties for damaging a statue than for attacking a woman.
In a Bill that spans almost 300 pages, women are not mentioned even once.
Alongside my Labour colleagues in Parliament I will be voting against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
We are calling on the Government to drop its poorly thought-out proposals and instead work with us to legislate to tackle violence against women which is forcing so many across the country to live in fear. In addition, the Government should work with us to deliver reforms in the important areas that are long promised, like tougher sentences for attacks on frontline workers and increased sentences for terrorists.
The Speaker has selected just one amendment for a vote this evening which is Labour’s amendment (called a reasoned amendment) setting out the faults with the Bill and why it should not be voted through to the next Parliamentary stage. I will obviously vote in favour of this amendment. The Government has an 80 seat majority so we will need Conservative MPs to vote in support of our amendment to prevent the Bill from going further.
The amendment tabled by my colleague Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP has not been selected by the Speaker for a vote.
There will then be a second vote on the Bill, to allow it to proceed to the next stage (called “second reading”) and I, alongside my Labour colleagues will be voting against the Bill proceeding.
If we lose both votes this evening, we will continue to work to amend the Bill in the next stages of the Bill’s passage through Parliament, both in the Commons and in the House of Lords.
Labour is calling for the Government to work cross-party to introduce a package of measures to tackle violence against women, specifically including:
- Increasing minimum sentences for rapists and stalkers
- Creating a new street harassment law.
- Introducing a Whole Life Tariff for anyone found guilty of a stranger abductor murder.
- Commissioning an independent Review to look into increasing sentences for domestic murder, as well as providing a Statutory Defence for Domestic Abuse Survivors.
- A strategy to tackle the misogynistic attitudes that underpin the abuse women face.
- Legislating to make misogyny a hate crime.
I hope that my voting and this information will reassure you that I strongly oppose much of this Bill which should be withdrawn and rewritten.
Thank you again to those who have been in contact to let me know your views and raising the important issues in this Bill with me.